According to the National Kidney Foundation, approximately one in ten people will have a kidney stone at some point in their lives. Kidney stones aren’t generally life-threatening, but they can be extremely painful when they pass. So, what exactly are they? Keep reading for answers to the following questions: How long does it take to pass a kidney stone? Can kidney stones dissolve? Can kidney stones cause kidney failure? And how can you treat and prevent them?
Kidney stones are essentially hard objects comprised of chemicals in the urine1. According to Mayo Clinic, kidney stones are formed when your urine has more crystal-forming substances than the fluid in it can dilute.
There are a few different types of kidney stones. They include the following:
Another difference lies in their onset. PPIs take longer to take effect. However, they work over a longer period of time. In contrast, H2 Blockers take effect within an hour, but they work over a shorter period of time.
Those with smaller kidney stones may not always experience any symptoms. Smaller stones can also pass painlessly.
However, the larger the stone, the more symptoms you’re likely to experience. According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada when a larger stone passes from the kidney to the bladder through the ureter, it could cause severe pain defined as colic.
Other symptoms you could experience are:
Since there are different types of kidney stones, risk factors may vary depending on the type.
In regards to calcium oxalate stones, the risk factors come down to dehydration and diet. Those who don’t have enough fluids on a daily basis are at risk for developing this type of stone.
Furthermore, those who consume diets high in oxalates, sodium, and protein have a higher risk for developing calcium oxalate stones.
Risk factors for kidney stones overall can also be due to dehydration, diet, family history, obesity, and certain illness like IBD or type 2 diabetes.
If you’ve been diagnosed with one, you’re probably wondering “how long does it take to pass a kidney stone?”
Since kidney stones come in all shapes and sizes, there are a few answers to this question.
According to the American Urological Association, stones smaller than 2mm could take an average of eight days to pass from the ureters to the bladder. Stones between 2 mm and 4 mm may take approximately 12 days. And lastly, stones between 4mm and 6mm may take an average of 22 days to pass8.
Some stones which are too large may require earlier intervention and surgical removal.
Can kidney stones dissolve? The answer to that is no and yes.
According to The Kidney Foundation of Canada, the most common stones—calcium oxalate stones—cannot be dissolved. However, certain types can be dissolved with medication.
This applies to uric acid stones. According to the American Urological Association, alkalizing the urine with potassium citrate can dissolve these stones.
At this point, you’re probably wondering: “can kidney stones cause kidney failure?”
While there is a potential of resulting damage, this is quite rare. According to the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, kidneys could lose function temporarily if blocked by a stone. However, function resumes once the stone is gone.
However, if the stone is very large and left untreated for a long while, this could result in permanent damage or kidney loss.
With this in mind, it’s important not to take your diagnosis lightly. Remember, if you are diagnosed with a stone, be sure to consult with a urologist.
Having a kidney stone is undoubtedly worrisome. However, there are treatment options to help you through the process.
For those experiencing pain, Tylenol (acetaminophen) may be prescribed.
If the stone is small enough to pass through, your practitioner may prescribe medications to increase its passage. This can include medications like calcium channel blockers like nifedipine or alpha blockers like
Some stones may be too large to pass on their own, or may cause complications. In this event, lithotripsy or shock wave therapy may be helpful. This therapy uses shock waves to break down larger stones into smaller fragments to make passage easier.
If you’re taking medications for treatment, be sure to let your doctor know of any allergies. Already have the medication but unsure about it? Here are a few answers to “what does ‘inactive ingredient’ mean?”
If you’re concerned about developing or redeveloping kidney stones, there are a few things you can do to prevent them.
If you have metabolic disorders or urinary infections, be sure to consult with your doctor on how to stay kidney stone-free!
Kidney stones are very common. However, by staying mindful of your diet and lifestyle choices, you reduce your chances of developing them. Keep in mind, however, that there are other conditions that may cause kidney stones.
If you suspect you have one, be sure to check in with your doctor. If left untreated, there is a possibility for kidney damage or failure.